Guard commits to play for Barcelona

Updated: February 21, 2004, 11:01 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Florida sophomore guard Christian Drejer has accepted a lucrative offer to play for F.C. Barcelona in Spain and will leave the Gators immediately, coach Billy Donovan told ESPN.com Wednesday.

"It's over,'' Donovan said. "He's leaving here today."

Drejer met with Donovan at the coach's Gainesville home Wednesday morning. Donovan said the team wants Drejer in Spain for a game Thursday night.

Drejer will play for Barcelona the remainder of this season and for three more, according to NBA and Florida sources. Conflicting reports have the deal ranging from $250,000 for the remainder of this season, to $800,000 for next season to an overall value of at least $1 million.

Calls to Drejer's representative, Kenny Grant, were not returned. Donovan said Drejer told him that Barcelona went through his father in Denmark to secure the deal.

Drejer didn't accompany the team to Georgia for Tuesday night's game, staying home in Gainesville to contemplate the offer. Drejer, who is from Denmark, flirted with leaving Florida after last season to play in Europe. Georgia beat Florida 76-62.

Scouts told ESPN.com that he might not even be selected if he were to declare in the spring for the NBA draft. But going to Barcelona might eventually change the perception of his game in the eyes of the scouts, who are usually prone to give European players another chance once they play abroad.

Drejer's decision ends a tumultuous week for him and the program. Last week, he told Donovan that reports in a Spanish tabloid newspaper that he was going to Spain weren't true. Donovan then publicly denied the reports, backing Drejer.

But after Florida lost to LSU Saturday, Drejer said he wanted to talk to Donovan. They didn't meet until 30 minutes before Monday's practice when Drejer, apparently near tears, told Donovan he was leaving.

Donovan said he was late for practice and that he would leave Drejer at home instead of taking him to Georgia. He said they would talk when he returned, but ultimately he knew that Drejer had already made up his mind.

"My thing is that there is a right time and a wrong time to do this,'' Donovan told ESPN.com. "Guys leave early and go pro. But this would be like Anthony Roberson saying that he's having a good year and is leaving to be a first-round pick to work out with an agent instead of finishing the season.''

Donovan said the Barcelona team told Drejer there is a March 3 cutoff date to add him to the roster. And that's why he felt he had to leave with five regular-season games remaining.

"It's a different mentality over there,'' Donovan said. "Those kids are only exposed to club teams and moving around. Christian feels bad about what he's doing, but he feels this is the best thing for himself.''

As a freshman, Drejer averaged 3.6 points and 2.4 assists a game. He played in the final 18 games after an ankle injury kept him out of the beginning of the season. Bothered this season by nagging injuries from a neck to a back injury, he averaged 10.2 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 20 games. The 6-foot-9 Drejer played three positions -- point, shooting guard and small forward -- for the Gators (14-8, 5-6 in the SEC), who were once No. 1 in the country but have slumped recently, losing four of their last five including home games to Kentucky and LSU.

The last prominent foreign player to leave a college team in the middle of the season to play professionally overseas was Rodrigo de la Fuente, who left Washington State on the eve of the 1998 Pac-10 season. De la Fuente was the Cougars' leading scorer and left for a professional contract in his native Spain.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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